AFTER THE CAPTIVITY: WHAT IS UKRAINE DOING?
In recent months, there have been two large-scale exchanges held between Ukraine and ORDLO groups supported by Russia. The Ukrainian authorities have already said that negotiations are underway for a third wave of exchange.
How are those who are returned home by Ukraine now living? This was reported on the air by Radio Donbas.Reality by the Head of the Department of the Ministry for Veterans Affairs Serhii Mokreniuk.
- Serhii, due to this exchange some of our prisoners were returned. In particular, my colleague, Radio Svoboda journalist Stanislav Aseev, has also returned. This is a difficult situation for him and for all 76 citizens. What activities does the Ministry undertake to reduce rehabilitation and adaptation issues?
- We have changed approaches to the problem itself. If the state had previously focused solely on the payment and financial assistance to those in captivity and when released, everything was in manual artificial mode.
At the end of last year, we developed a special decree of the Cabinet of Ministers, which approved several procedures. In particular, the procedures that allows providing of social and legal assistance. They provide for the procedures of state authorities and describe those. This made it possible to pay 100,000 UAH to the persons who were released.
- Did all 77 of released Ukrainians receive this money?
- No, but more on that later. On December 29, when the release took place, everyone was brought to Kyiv. Representatives of our Ministry were daily in Feofaniya Clinical Hospital, where the released were treated. Constant psychological supportwasdone as the first thing. We wrote a road map and the main task was to explain the sequence. Because after 3-5 years of being in a cell in awful conditions ... It is difficult for many to understand what it is. Stanislav's interview is a bit introductory.
The main problem was that people needed psychological support. For several years they lived in unpredictable conditions, and here they were released and not knowing what to do next. This issue kills them. 26 people did not have citizenship documents, passports. The absence of a passport deprives you of all possibilities.
56 people, if I'm not mistaken, received medical treatment in Feofaniya Clinical Hospital, after which 36 released were sent to the hospital “LisovaPoliana” in Kyiv, where psychological adaptation were being carried out. Another group of those who have the worst health problems are sent to a sanatorium in Tsybli, Kyiv Oblast. 16 people need serious medical care.
Of course, we first asked what person would like to do next, where to live, where to work, what needs there are. Most of the released are people from the temporarily occupied territories and our task is very simple. When their hospital stay ends, they must have a place to stay. The state program does not provide for them to buy or rent housing. There is private initiative of specific people who decided to make such a contribution to buy housing for some released persons, we thank them very much.
Today, we have found a place of work and accommodation for seven persons and their families, and for 5-7 we have found the opportunity to live on the conditions they need. We continue to do so.
Due to the cooperation with the Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, documents were filed and paid for obtaining citizenship documents.
Everything unfolds dynamically, the numbers change daily. The issue of residence has been resolved for several people. There are two people who can no longer work because of age, they are retired. For them we made an arrangement with recreation and retreat centre in Kyiv Oblast.
- And where is all this recorded? What can released Ukrainians rely on to get assistance?
- I can honestly say that we work with colleagues, psychologists to support everyone personally. These are both the renewal of passports and lost driver's licenses and the receipt of certificates that they are internally displaced persons. We see that there are some problems in communicating with other authorities. On the one hand, we provide support, and on the other - we develop changes to regulations. We are preparing for our next release.
- How do these people live now? What are the specific issues?
- It's not only about finding housing; it's hard to find housing and jobs. There were 77 people, but some said they had somewhere to go to their families, 56 of them said they needed help.
- Serhii, how many employees are in your Ministry? How many people can manage the cases of persons who returned home?
- Five people. According to the staff list that is scheduled to be approved, it will be six people. But these are the persons who deal with the issues of those still in captivity. There are a lot of questions about who they are, where they are, what the situation is.
- Do you have this information?
- To a certain extent, as much as possible. But I cannot say that we have all the information. There are not dozens but a few more people in captivity. We cannot name the figures because the information we own, the Security Service of Ukraine, the police - is different, it cannot be verified.
Previously, there was a category when a person was held captive, how to work with him. Now when Oksana Koliada has become our Minister, we have changed our standards and approaches. It became clear that it is necessary to deal with those who have been released already, and this is a separate job and it is long. And there is need to deal with their families.
Therefore, the functionality was expanded. We understand that six people for this direction are not enough.
In my personal point of view, the understanding of the tasks that we need to address today does not allow us to work within the framework of a merged Ministry for Veterans Affairs, Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons.
Caller: What about legal aid, assistance to relatives when people are held captive? Who to contact?
- By the end of 2019, those who were imprisoned for political reasons were eligible to receive financial assistance in the amount of UAH 100,000. We have made changes, and now this option is also available to those detained for political reasons, civic position and professional activity. The decree came into force. A commission was established and we will consider applications from relatives of those individuals for a decision on the possibility of paying them financial assistance in the amount of UAH 100,000.
As for the released, this is a separate position, another reason. For such people, there is an opportunity to pay 100 thousand due to the fact that they were released. The only ones who cannot receive these payments are those whose actions were criminal with respect to the state of Ukraine.
Caller: There is information from prisoners that there were sent very controversial individuals to the Ukrainian territory who helped to torture others.
- We are talking about it with you. It is about the division of responsibilities and actions of all state authorities of Ukraine.
The law enforcement authorities work with the released persons; they are interrogated on the facts of their captivity, on violation of the norms of international humanitarian law by the administrations in ORDLO. This is a question to be answered by the Security Service of Ukraine, the police and the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine. I know this work is done properly, but it takes time to work it all out.
Today, we do not have a law that clearly states the grounds: who is a released person, who is a prisoner, who is a civilian hostage, a prisoner of war, to whom we provide services. This should be the position of the state. The draft bill has already been developed and is under consideration by a special commission created by the President of Ukraine on the issues of reintegration. These issues need to be addressed with the involvement of the scientific community.
- Mr.Serhii, you talked a lot with those released from captivity. What were you most impressed by about their stories?
- What strikes me more is not what these people are saying, because it is understandable.I am more impressed by the reaction of our society. On the one hand, there are incredible people who help, create miracles. On the other hand, there are those who are very dry about this. Sometimes I called the Ministry of Defence at 12 o'clock at night and they answered me, saying that tomorrow they would do everything. There are different people everywhere, but all this construction and assistance is held by specific people who work in different Ministries, regardless of their positions.